Planning a children’s party is hard enough without having to worry about sending a guest to the hospital. With a recent government study showing that as many as 1 in 13 children have at least one food allergy, chances are you will at some point have at least one child with food allergies as a guest in your home.
How do you make party meal planning easy and safe, without blowing your budget on specialty allergen free foods? Here are 8 tips and tricks to make your planning a little less stressful, despite having to cater to multiple food allergies.
1. Send Evites. Online invitations allow you to easily stay in contact with all your guests. You can find out what allergies guests have, and by posting your proposed menu, parents can point out any issue they might have and give suggestions on substitutions or “safe” brands.
2. Label Everything. This is huge, probably the most important part of feeding anyone with allergies. Keep labels of everything you serve. This means having the label or bottle from every single ingredient you used for baking, for every bag of chips or box of crackers. Often times, parents want to double check ingredients. If you have thrown the packaging away, there is no easy way for them to see if it could cause problems for their child. If you’re making anything from scratch, writing out the recipe to put next to the serving plate lets parents double check that it’s going to be safe. Clearly labeling foods lets guests know exactly what they are eating.
3. Find out the severity of the allergy. Although some allergies are milder than others, that doesn’t mean you should be any less strict about labeling everything. However, it might mean that the parents are okay if some of the foods contain an allergen. Other allergies are very severe, and it is even more important to double and triple check that every single thing you serve is safe. Use your evites to talk to parents about what they feel comfortable with and what you need to do to ensure their child is safe in your home.
4. Put food up high and give everything its own labeled serving spoon. This keeps young children from helping themselves to food and makes it easier for parents to monitor everything their child puts in their mouth. Labeling every spoon cuts down on cross contamination.
Now that you know how to label and keep guests safe, you may be thinking, but what do I feed them? It can be hard, even when you have a child with food allergies, to come up with party foods to feed both picky eaters and children with multiple allergies.
5. Think about the timing of your party. Instead of having a lunch party, throw a morning or afternoon party. By picking a time when guests are not expecting a full meal you can save yourself a lot of time and money by just serving light snacks.
6. Think Simple. Keep foods simple. Easy fruit or vegetable platters with a selection of dips are easy to put together and don’t take a lot of effort or money. By serving a variety of simple finger foods it’s easy for all guests to find something they like and quickly identify the ingredients.
7. Build your own meals. If you really want to serve a meal, then a “create your own meal” is the best way to let both picky eaters and guests with allergies pick a meal that they like and is safe. You can make a nacho bar, for example, with a few types of beans, meat, and a variety of toppings, and you have a specialty meal without a whole lot of extra stress or effort.
8. Cupcakes. Birthday cake is important and trying to accommodate many allergies while still pleasing the birthday kid can be hard. Buying a cake at a specialty bakeries can be expensive, and most supermarket cakes are going to have a wide variety of allergens. There are great allergen free cake mixes, that taste just as good as traditional cakes. By making cupcakes, you can leave some unfrosted, and leave a couple without sprinkles or decoration. If you have your heart set on a specialty cake, get a mini version just for the birthday kid.
With a little extra planning and thinking outside the box, hosting a party with guests who have allergies doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful.